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Subject-Verb Agreement

When revising, it is important to look at each sentence for subject-verb agreement. This is one of those skills that comes naturally over time. 

There are a few tricky circumstances to double check.

1) A singular subject requires a singular verb. A plural subject requires a plural verb with a few exceptions.

I sing. You sing. We all sing for ice cream.

The little girls all sang for their supper.

2) If the subject has two singular nouns joined with and use a plural verb.

Dick and Jane are ready to go home.

3) If the subject has two singular nouns joined with or or nor, use a singular verb.

Neither Dick nor Jane is ready to go home.

4) If the subject has a singular noun joined to a plural noun by or or nor, the verb should agree with whichever noun comes last.

Neither Dick nor his friends want to play catch outside.

Either Sally or Jane visits everyday.

5) The contractions doesn't (does not) and wasn't (was not) are always used with a singular subject.

Dick doesn’t want to go.

6) The contractions don't (do not) and weren't (were not) are always used with a plural subject. The exception to this rule is I and you require don't.

We don’t want to go with Jane.

You don’t believe me.

I don’t want to go home yet.

7) When a modifying phrase comes between the subject and the verb, it does not change the agreement. The verb always agrees with the subject, not the modifying phrase.

Dick, as well as his friends, hopes the Colts win.

Jane, as well as Sally and Dick, hopes the meeting will be over soon.

8) Distributives are singular and need a singular verb: anybody, anyone, each, each one, either, everybody, everyone, neither, no, one, nobody, somebody, someone.

Each of them will go there someday.

Nobody knows Dick is here.

Either way works.

Neither option is viable.

9) Plural nouns functioning as a single unit, such as mathematics, measles, and mumps, require singular verbs. An exception is the word dollars. When used to reference an amount of money, dollars requires a singular verb; but when referring to the bills themselves, a plural verb is required.

Five thousand dollars would suffice.

Dollars are easier to exchange than Euros.

10) Another exception is nouns with two parts. They can usually be prefaced with a pair of and require a plural verb: glasses, pants, panties, scissors, or trousers. Why they are considered pairs is another question.
Dick's trousers are worn.

Jane's scissors are missing.

11) When a sentence begins with the verb phrases there is and there are and they are followed by the subject, the verb must agree with the subject that follows.

There are many who would agree with you.

There is the question of who goes first.

12) A subject can be modified by a phrase that begins with: accompanied by, as well as, as with, in addition to, including, or together with. However, this does not modify the plurality of the subject. If the subject is single, it requires a singular verb. If the subject is plural, it requires a plural verb.

Dick, accompanied by his wife Jane, will arrive in ten minutes.

Everything, including the kitchen sink, is up for auction.

The cousins, together with their dog, are going to be here for a week.

Revision Tips
? This step needs to be done sentence by sentence and is best done on a printed copy. Identify the complicated sentences.
? Underline the subject and verb. Do they agree? If not, correct them.
? Make sure the modifying phrases are used correctly.

For all of the revision tips on verbs and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: 

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